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Workplace wellbeing: Key Components of Workplace Counseling

mental health counseling at the workplace therapist at the workplace

The word “Counseling” means to give professional advice and help somebody with a problem. According to Warren Redman, ''Counseling is a process of clarifying a problem held by another person, enabling them to take appropriate responsibility for that problem, and then assisting them to come at some form of resolution of the difficulty."

Counseling can be interpreted in many ways. Apart from the popular notion of giving advice to deal with or overcome a problem, it includes creating better awareness and understanding of one’s thoughts comprehensively. It also means providing an empathetic and non-judgmental atmosphere for the person to find a way forward.

How does counseling at the workplace differ from conversations we have with friends, family or elders?

In professional counseling, the effort is both from the therapist as well as the client to identify potential solutions to the problems and identify goals. It is more organized and the therapist or the counselor acts as a neutral party. The approach and perspective in understanding the client are not coloured by the client-therapist relationship, which normally tends to happen with friends or other people close to us.

Are counselors and therapists the same?

Often the words counselor and therapist are used interchangeably. Both help the clients deal with life challenges and mental health issues. However, the key difference is in terms of the degree (education), license and certifications and specific kinds of training and supervision. To simplify, counseling is more of a general term and therapy is more organized and structured.

Counseling at the workplace

Why is counseling at the workplace required?

In day-to-day life, employees may have issues related to the workplace, such as problems with subordinates, colleagues, system of work, meeting deadlines, maintaining cordial relationships, social anxiety, etc. or they may have issues in their personal life, which in turn affects their efficiency at work. Counseling at the workplace aims to provide a safe place for the employees to talk about their problems and focuses on addressing issues which directly or indirectly affect the employee’s emotional well-being.

Situations where counseling can help

Counseling is helpful in wide areas and it can be tailored based on the individual’s needs. Different situations where counseling can be helpful include but are not restricted to:

  • Work-related stress
  • Personal issues
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial concerns
  • Trauma
  • Bereavement

Effective employee counseling

The main objective of Counseling is to help the employees attain better mental, emotional and physical health. The different counseling functions help achieve the objectives of counseling. This includes:

  • Advice: Advice-giving hinders the process of self-analysis. But here, advice is given by counselors to guide towards a path of action.
  • Reassurance:  It can mean encouragement. Reassurance regarding the progress one is making ensures one is moving towards achieving the desired goal.
  • Communication: For an effective counseling session, communication skills such as listening and providing accurate feedback are essential. This will ensure concerns and solutions are addressed without misinterpretations.
  • Release of Emotional Tension: Emotional outbursts or venting to a sympathetic listener will help release the employee's tensions and help in coping with anger and frustration.
  • Clarified Thinking: Discussing one's problems often results in rational and logical thinking and helps in finding solutions to challenges.
  • Reorientation: Clarity of thinking eventually leads a person to have a better self-image and reorient oneself to one's potential and limitations, and set goals accordingly.

effective employee counseling at workplace in india

Benefits of counseling at the workplace

  • It aids employees in understanding their potential strengths and weaknesses. With this awareness, it is easier for them to work and focus.
  • It helps provide new insights into employee behaviour - the patterns, triggers and consequences which would help cope with negative emotions & criticism.
  • Helps in developing cordial relationships among colleagues by increasing personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • It helps increase confidence and morale and helps set better goals for further improvement.
  • It encourages the development of new perspectives and better decision-making.
  • It reduces absenteeism at the workplace
  • It reduces the cost of hiring and training new employees
  • It ensures smoother coordination between the employees and the employer

Types of employee counseling

The various types of counseling can be discussed based on the approach, mode of delivery, and type of direction the counselor provides.

Based on the type of approaches

  • Humanistic: This approach believes that all the resources needed for healthy and functional lives are within the individuals themselves. The problem arises due to reduced access to, or unavailability of, problem-solving resources. Counselors focus on helping the clients to discover their strengths and resources for problem-solving rather than directing or advising the clients.
  • Cognitive: Thoughts determine our behaviour and emotions. Difficulties arise when thinking is out of sync with reality. In this approach, the counselor challenges the thinking patterns and develops an alternate possible response which helps derive solutions to problems.
  • Behavioral: It emphasizes the role of environment in shaping behaviors.  A problem will continue to occur when the environment is favorable. The counselors help in identifying the reinforcements and the patterns that are supporting the problematic thinking patterns and the behavior and replace them with alternating desirable patterns.
  • Psychoanalytic: This approach is based on the understanding that psychological drives, expectations and motivations from past relationships and experience influence present-day problems. Counselors help the clients become aware of these unconscious working models so that their impact can be understood and addressed.
  • Constructionist: It holds that rather than an event, the meaning or the construct one forms determines how one thinks, feels and behaves. Constructionist counselors help clients revise the meaning given to an event concerning self, relationships and the world.
  • Systemic: These theories hold that social systems exert pressure and influence the behaviors and feelings one experiences in society. It works in understanding and modifying the role one plays within families, relationships and other social networks.

Based on the mode of delivery, counseling can be:

  • In-Person: It is a one-on-one session, which takes place in the counselor's chamber. It is the most popular format of counseling
  • Group counseling: It is offered to people with similar problems. Joining such a group will help develop a network and support system.
  • Telephonic sessions: It is an alternative and more flexible approach to in-person counseling.
  • Online counseling: This trend is becoming more popular recently. With the comfort of home, one can have access to counseling sessions. It includes writing emails, and video consultations.

The type of direction the counselor gives to the session differentiates it into three types of counseling:

  • Directive Counseling: The counselor leads the session and gives advice and reassurance. The counselor decides on behalf of the counselee regarding what is to be done. The drawback is that it does not equip the counselee to handle similar situations.
  • Non-Directive Counseling: This counselor only listens to the counselee and understands the problem, but does not offer direct advice. The counselee here has to find the solution on his or her own.
  • Co-operative/Participative Counseling: It involves mutual contribution in identifying, and analyzing the problem. Both participate in sharing knowledge, insights and work towards finding a solution.

online counseling and mental health at workplace


What should counselors keep in mind?

As counselors deal with a variety of patients with various kinds of challenges, it is important for them to have a certain set of skills. These are as follows:

  • Counselors should have efficient communication skills
  • Counselors should practise Active and Reflective listening
  • Counselors should take an unbiased and non-judgmental approach
  • They should be able to maintain therapist-patient confidentiality
  • They should have the required professional qualifications and maturity
  • They should be efficient in tailoring counseling based on the individual's requirement
  • Counselors should have passion and a compassionate approach
  • They should have recent research-oriented counseling
  • They are responsible for creating an environment for the employees to come forward to discuss their challenges

On the other hand, counselors should try to avoid the following:

  • They should be cautious of the development of any conflict with the counselee
  • The counselor should not have any vested interest in counseling the patient
  • The counselor should not show their emotions like anger with the counselee
  • They should not violate counselee autonomy
  • The best counselors refrain from using pressure tactics


In closing

Counseling helps deal with the stress and challenges of both professional and personal life which has an impact on productivity and efficiency at the workplace.  Incorporating and implementing steps to ensure there are counseling services at the workplace will have positive results for the organizations and for employee well-being.


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Dr Raga Sandhya (MRCPsych) is a Specialist Psychiatrist with demonstrable experience in Palliative Care and Psycho Oncology, Child Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction and Consultant-Liaison Psychiatry.